My ultra-boring life

Friday, January 04, 2008

Logic and Blaming Religion for Evil

I was talking with an acquaintance the other day and he mentioned that 'all wars are because of religion.' I was so shocked I didn't know what to say for a moment, then I rebutted, 'of course not ALL wars are because of religion. Many are about power, or land, or ethnicity, etc.' I wasn't very convincing, though I brought up a few examples, and I found myself disappointed with the conversation. It got me thinking again, though, about the common argument that 'religion can't be real/true because it is the source of so much evil.' This is a common fallacy that is put forth, surprisingly, often by intellectuals, even though it violates some of the most basic of logical arguments. You cannot hold up an example of the worst of something and use that as the complete representation of that thing. I believe it is called the straw man argument.

To put this in other words -- if religion is evil because so much of religion has been used as an excuse for evil deeds, then you must apply the same argument to all things that have been used as an excuse for evil deeds -- power, money, possessions, love. I can see many people falsely believing that power, money, and possessions are purely evil because of this (ignoring all of the good that can be and has been done with all three), but few would try to argue that love could be purely evil. Yet ask any homicide cop about the motives for the murders he has seen, and I can guarantee that love -- or some semblance thereof -- will be in the top three. It's just bad logic to take the worst examples of something and use it as the representation of that thing. So stop doing it. If you don't like religion, fine. But you'll have to use some different argument than 'it's evil'. There have been far, far too many good things done in the name of religion -- why, even in the hideous dark ages, religion was the reason we had writing and history preserved -- for it to be pure evil. We don't even have to get into the argument of what constitutes 'truly following God' for me to win this one. So I'll save that one for another day. :)

2 comments:

Trevor Hammack said...

A very interesting post. I may add the following thoughts:

I find it interesting that those who reject religion or the Idea of God always speak in terms that only make sense from a religious worldview. They use terms like evil, wrong, right etc. How is there evil if there if there is no absolute standard of good?

It would probably be a very profitable exercise to do a study of all wars and see what caused them. This is one of those things that many people just say and repeat and no one ever quotes primary sources.

Trevor Hammack

www.worldvieww.blogspot.com

www.preachtoday.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

I can do no better than quote Steven Weinberg of the NY Times..."With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion!"

iandcooper@hotmail.com